A father and his daughter reading together.

Are you taking part in World Book Day this year? The annual celebration of books and reading takes place on 7 March 2024 and aims to encourage children and adults alike to enjoy the hobby.

Reading with your children can provide a range of benefits. The BookTrust found that children who read regularly are more likely to:

  • Overcome disadvantages caused by inequalities
  • Be happier, healthier, and experience better mental wellbeing and self-esteem
  • Do better at school and make more progress across the curriculum
  • Develop empathy and creativity.

Encouraging your children and grandchildren to read, providing them with books, and making the experience fun – perhaps by taking part in the tradition of dressing up as your favourite fictional character on World Book Day – could strengthen your relationship.

If you want to discover new books to enjoy with your family, here are six imaginative books for you to read together.

1. Guess How Much I Love You? by Sam McBratney

When you love someone a lot, you want to tell them how you feel. But as Big Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare discover, measuring just how much you love someone is harder than you think.

This heartwarming tale explores how we express love to each other and features beautiful illustrations to enjoy with children under the age of five.

2. Blue by Sarah Christou

Blue – a gigantic, furry monster – makes the young protagonist of this picture book worry about everything. It follows them wherever they go: the playground, birthday parties, even hiding under their bed. But one day, they share their secret with a friend and slowly come to realise that they don’t need to hide their feelings.

Blue is ideal for any young children who may be dealing with big emotions. The gorgeous pastel drawings and sensitive approach to a difficult topic make this story perfect to read with children between the ages of four to six.

3. How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell

Every young boy on the island of Berk must capture and train a dragon to earn their place as a Viking. Armed with a single page of instructions, Hiccup only has a matter of days to teach his new companion, Toothless, to behave before they’re exiled forever.

Now adapted into three brilliant animated films, the How to Train Your Dragon series will appeal to children from the ages of 6 to 10.

4. Impossible Creatures by Katherine Rundell

Christopher is stunned when he discovers a hidden passageway to a magical world. In the Archipelago, mythical creatures thrive and mysteries lie in wait. Accompanied by Mal, a girl with a flying coat and baby griffin companion, the two set out on a quest to save these islands and the world beyond from a rising evil.

A Sunday Times Bestseller and winner of Waterstones Book of the Year 2023, the immersive fantasy world of Impossible Creatures will capture the attention of 8- to 12-year-olds and won’t let go.

5. Ruby Redfort: Look Into My Eyes by Lauren Child

Ruby Redfort isn’t your average 13-year-old girl. When her family’s furniture and housekeeper go missing, her quick mind and talent for spotting unusual things lead to her entering a world of spies and secrets beyond her wildest dreams.

With a fantastic heroine and dastardly villains, Look Into My Eyes is an exhilarating introduction to a series of exciting adventures that are perfect to enjoy with children from the ages of 9–13.

6. Heartstopper by Alice Oseman

Charlie and Nick have never spoken, even though they attend the same school. But when they’re suddenly sat next to each other in form, a beautiful romance starts to bloom.

Heartstopper is a delightful series of graphic novels exploring first loves, loyalty, and friendships that will speak to children from 13 to 16. And if your children or grandchildren enjoy Charlie and Nick’s story, you can watch their friendship turn into something more in the Netflix adaptation.

A man reading a letter.

There are reports that interest rates may have peaked as the inflation rate is falling. So, if you’re looking for a new mortgage, does that mean you should choose a variable option? Read on to discover some of the factors you might want to consider.

With a variable-rate mortgage, the rate of interest you pay can change during the term. So, if interest rates fall, you’d benefit from a lower rate and, as a result, your repayment would fall too.

Alternatively, if you choose a fixed-rate mortgage deal, the rate of interest you pay would remain the same for a defined period, even if interest rates fell.

There’s speculation that the Bank of England will cut its base interest rate in 2024

The Bank of England (BoE) has increased its base interest rate over the last couple of years to try and reduce high levels of inflation.

The BoE has a target of keeping inflation at 2% a year. The Covid-19 pandemic led to a large shortage of products and services, and then sudden demand for them, which pushed up prices. This was exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which had a huge effect on the cost of food and energy.

It led to inflation rising far above the 2% target over the last couple of years – it reached 11% in 2022. One of the ways the BoE can try to reduce the rising cost of living is by increasing interest rates. This discourages both household and business spending to bring prices down.

The rate of inflation has been falling, although it is still above the target. According to the Office for National Statistics, in the 12 months to December 2023, the rate of inflation was 4%.

The BoE expects inflation to slow and be back to “normal levels” by the end of 2025.

With inflation easing, there’s speculation that the BoE will start to gradually reduce interest rates, potentially as soon as this year. If you’re taking out a mortgage, it could affect which option you choose.

A variable-rate mortgage could mean you benefit from interest rate cuts sooner

If you believe interest rates may fall, a variable-rate deal could make sense as you’d benefit from rate cuts much sooner.

Taking out a variable-rate mortgage at a time when interest rates are falling could improve both your short- and long-term finances.

Let’s say you borrow £200,000 through a repayment mortgage over 25 years. With an interest rate of 5%, your monthly repayment would be £1,170. If the interest rate fell by just 1%, your monthly repayment would decrease to £1,055.

Over the full term of your mortgage, a lower interest rate could save you thousands of pounds.

On the flip side, the BoE could raise interest rates further. If it did so, your repayments on a variable-rate mortgage would also increase. Considering how you’d cope financially if interest rates were to rise could help you understand if a variable-rate option is right for you and give you confidence in your decision.

A fixed-rate mortgage could be right for some homeowners

While some experts believe interest rates could fall soon, there’s no guarantee that they will.

When you’re comparing mortgage options, it’s important to consider what makes sense for your financial circumstances. For some homeowners, knowing how much their mortgage repayments will be every month by choosing a fixed-rate mortgage could be more valuable than potentially accessing a lower rate of interest in the future.

If you believe interest rates could fall but want the security of a fixed-term mortgage, you may want to choose a short-term deal. It means you could remortgage sooner and take advantage of a potential rate fall.

So, it could be worthwhile reviewing all your options to understand what’s right for you. 

Contact us to discuss your mortgage options

If you’d like to talk about the different mortgage options and which ones could suit your needs, please contact us. We’re here to help answer your questions and provide guidance when you’re searching for a mortgage.

As mortgage brokers, we could support you in finding the lender that’s right for you and may be able to secure you a competitive interest rate. Please contact us to arrange a meeting.

Please note:

This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on a mortgage or other loans secured on it.

A man riding a bike through a city.

Naming a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is often associated with the elderly. But it could provide vital protection and peace of mind at every life stage.

An LPA gives someone you trust the ability to make decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to do so. When you think about the scenarios that might happen, it may be something you think you don’t need until your later years. However, ill health and accidents can occur at any stage of your life.

Without an LPA in place, it can be difficult for loved ones to act on your behalf. So, whether you’re in your 20s or 80s, naming an attorney could be a valuable way to create protection should something happen.

Your next of kin cannot automatically make decisions on your behalf

It’s a common misconception that your next of kin would be able to make decisions for you if you cannot. However, no one has the automatic right to do so, including your spouse or civil partner.

Without an LPA there may be no one to make health decisions if you’re ill or manage your financial affairs if you cannot.

Overlooking an LPA could also lead to complications if you have joint assets. For example, joint bank accounts could be frozen until your partner gains control through the courts.

If you haven’t completed an LPA, your loved ones would have to apply to the Court of Protection for a Deputyship Order. This process can be time-consuming and more costly than naming an attorney. In addition, the Court of Protection might name someone to act on your behalf that you would not choose.

A Lasting Power of Attorney can be used to cover health and financial affairs

There are two different types of LPA. Ideally, you should have both types in place – you can choose the same person or people to act on your behalf in both cases.

A health and welfare LPA will give someone you trust the ability to make decisions related to your daily routine, medical treatment, or moving into a care home. A property and financial affairs LPA will cover areas like managing your bank account or other assets, and selling your home.

An LPA is often associated with long-term illness in old age. However, they could be used to give someone the ability to make decisions for you temporarily. For example, if you were involved in an accident, your attorney might handle your affairs while you receive treatment until you’ve recovered enough to take back responsibility.

You can name more than one attorney and specify whether they must make decisions together or if they can do so separately.

Deciding who to name as your attorney may be an important decision – who do you trust to act in your best interests, and would they be willing to take on the role of attorney?

Having a conversation with your loved ones about what being an attorney would involve and your wishes could be valuable. It may give you peace of mind and provide some guidance to your attorney should you ever lose mental capacity.

If family or friends cannot fulfil the role of attorney, you could choose a professional attorney, such as a solicitor.

You cannot register an LPA if you’ve already lost mental capacity. So, if it’s a task you’ve been putting off, you may want to make it a priority.

You must register a Lasting Power of Attorney with the Office of Public Guardian

You can download the necessary forms, along with an information pack, from the Office of Public Guardian, or use the online service to start the process of naming an LPA.

Read the forms carefully. A mistake could mean your LPA is rejected and you’ll need to pay a fee to reapply.

You’ll need to sign the forms, along with your attorney, and a “certificate provider” (this is someone who confirms you understand what you’re signing and haven’t been placed under pressure to do so). Your certificate provider must be someone you’ve known well for at least two years or a professional person, like a solicitor or doctor. Some people cannot be your certificate provider, including your partner or family members.

Once you’ve completed the forms, you must register the LPA with the Office of Public Guardian, and the process can take several weeks.

Most people will need to pay a fee of £82 for registering one LPA. So, if you need to register both a financial and health LPA, the cost will be £164.

While you don’t need to engage the services of a solicitor to register an LPA, it could prevent delays and issues, particularly if your affairs are complex.

Setting up a Lasting Power of Attorney is just one way to improve your security

An LPA could protect you if you ever become too ill or injured to make decisions for yourself, but it’s just one step you can take to create security in case the unexpected happens. Depending on your life and concerns, you might want to consider taking out income protection, creating a care fund, or building a financial safety net.

A tailored financial plan could help you assess which steps could provide you with peace of mind. Please contact us to arrange a meeting.

Please note:

This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

A woman removing her wedding ring.

As younger generations face challenges reaching milestones as the cost of living soars, you might be thinking about gifting assets to improve their finances. If your beneficiary is in a relationship, you may want to consider what would happen if they split up with their partner.

A well-timed gift could have a hugely positive effect on the long-term financial security of your loved ones.

In recent years, more people are considering gifts rather than leaving all their assets as an inheritance. There are many reasons for doing so, from reducing a potential Inheritance Tax bill to helping your child get on the property ladder.

Indeed, the Great British Retirement Survey 2023 found that a tenth of Brits aged 40 and over said they’d given what they consider to be a living inheritance in the last three years. A further 16% expect to gift money during the next three years.

Whatever your reason for passing on wealth, you likely want to ensure the assets remain within your family if a relationship breaks down. There may be steps you could take to protect the gift if there is a dispute.

Loans and gifts are treated differently in family courts

First, it’s important to understand how your gift could be treated if your beneficiary divorced. The family courts define gifts and loans differently, which could affect how assets are distributed.

Gifts, where there is no expectation that you will be repaid, are usually treated as joint assets and could be divided between both parties. As a result, it could mean the gift, or a portion of it, goes to your beneficiary’s ex-partner.

A loan may be treated differently as there is an expectation that it’ll be repaid in the future. However, that doesn’t mean it’ll stay within your family. The court is likely to consider needs. For example, if you loaned your child a deposit to buy a home and they have children that will remain with their ex-partner, the court may still award the property as housing for dependent children will often take priority.

If you’ll be giving a loan to your child, it’s often a good idea to use a solicitor to make the agreement formal, rather than relying on a verbal agreement. This could protect you and be useful in the event of a relationship breakdown.

It’s not only gifts to married family members that could be affected by a relationship breakdown either. A gift to an unmarried child to act as a property deposit if they’ll be buying with a partner could also be complicated if they break up.

4 potential options to consider if you’re passing on assets to your family

1. Ask your beneficiary to consider a pre- and post-nuptial agreement

If your beneficiary is married, or planning to get married, a pre- or post-nuptial agreement could be useful. These agreements aim to make it clear what happens to assets if the couple separates.

It’s important to note that pre- or post-nuptial agreements are not automatically enforceable in the UK. However, courts should consider the arrangements, so it can be an influential document.

2. Use a declaration of trust if the gift is being used to purchase a property

When one partner is contributing more when buying a property, a declaration of trust could provide security.

The declaration of trust will make it clear how much each party is to receive if the relationship fails. For example, if you gifted your child a deposit to purchase their home, they could use the declaration of trust to ensure they’d receive a larger portion of the sale proceeds if the house is sold to reflect this.

It’s also possible to use a deed of trust to name yourself as a “tenant in common” and entitled to a share of the property.

3. Attach conditions to the gift

As mentioned above, gifts and loans are treated differently in the courts. So, attaching conditions to a gift may be useful. For instance, you may say the money is a gift but in the event of separation, it will be repaid by one or both parties.

This should be recorded in writing and it may be useful to engage the services of a solicitor.

4. Use a trust to pass on assets

Trusts may be used as a way to protect assets and ensure they stay in the family. Assets held in a trust are managed by a trustee on behalf of the beneficiary rather than simply handing over assets. In some cases, a trust could ensure assets remain with your family.

However, it’s a common misconception that a trust cannot be taken into account when assessing how to divide assets. The court might consider when the trust was set up and its purpose when assessing the couple’s assets.

You might benefit from taking both financial and legal advice if you think a trust could be the right option for you. Doing so could help you to understand the complexities and how they relate to your situation.

It may be impossible to take assets out of a trust once they’ve been transferred. So, it’s important to make sure this is the right decision for you.

Get in touch to talk about passing on assets to your loved ones

If you’re considering passing on assets to loved ones during your lifetime, we can help.

Not only could we assess your options to ensure assets stay within your family, but we could also help calculate the short- and long-term impact passing on wealth now could have on your finances to provide peace of mind.

Please get in touch to arrange a meeting.

Please note:

This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate trusts or estate planning.

The House of Commons, London.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt could have more options ahead of March’s Budget as government borrowing halved at the end of 2023. With a general election looming, Hunt may take the opportunity to ease the tax burden. Read on to discover some of the personal finance changes that could be announced.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that government borrowing halved in December 2023. The lower deficit of £7.77 billion – the lowest month since 2019 – means the chancellor has more scope to implement tax cuts, increase public spending, or pay down debt.

The annual Budget sets out the government’s proposals for changes to taxation. So, the announcements could affect your finances and long-term plan. Here are three changes the chancellor is reportedly contemplating.

1. Cutting Income Tax

There’s speculation that changes to Income Tax could reduce the tax burden on households. It would follow National Insurance rates being cut for employed and self-employed workers in the Autumn Statement.

While Income Tax rates haven’t increased in recent years, the thresholds have been frozen until April 2028. While your tax bill might not rise immediately, frozen thresholds could mean you pay more in the medium term or that you’re pushed into a higher tax bracket, even if your income hasn’t increased in real terms.

Indeed, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) estimates that freezing the threshold for paying the higher- and additional rate of Income Tax will raise £42.9 billion by 2027/28.

Hunt has a few options if he wants to decrease the Income Tax burden before the general election. He could opt to increase the thresholds in line with inflation or reduce the tax rate.

2. Abolishing Inheritance Tax

Ahead of Hunt delivering the Autumn Statement in November 2023, it was reported he was mulling over abolishing Inheritance Tax (IHT).

IHT is a type of tax on the estate of someone who has passed away if the value of their estate exceeds certain thresholds.

While only around 4% of estates are liable for IHT, it’s often referred to as “Britain’s most-hated tax” in the media.

The ONS data shows that between 2022 and 2023, IHT tax receipts were £7.1 billion. While that may seem like a large number, it represents just 0.28% of GDP. As a result, abolishing IHT could be viewed as a way to deliver a pre-election day boost with a relatively small reduction in the total tax collected.

Alternatively, the chancellor could increase the thresholds for paying IHT or lower the tax rate.

The thresholds for paying IHT have remained the same since 2020, and are currently frozen until April 2028. As they’re not rising in line with inflation, more estates are becoming liable for IHT as the value of assets, particularly property, may have increased.

For the 2023/24 tax year:

  • The nil-rate band is £325,000. If the entire value of your estate is below this threshold, no IHT is due.
  • The residence nil-rate band is £175,000. Your estate may be able to use this allowance if you leave certain properties, including your main home, to direct descendants.

The standard rate of IHT on the proportion of the estate that exceeds the thresholds is 40%. So, another option Hunt may consider is reducing the rate.

3. Increasing the ISA annual allowance

Again, there was speculation ahead of the Autumn Statement that the ISA annual allowance would increase. This didn’t materialise, but Hunt did announce key changes to simplify ISAs and make it easier for consumers to transfer their money.

ISAs offer a tax-efficient way to save or invest. In the 2023/24 tax year, you can add up to £20,000 to your ISA. The annual allowance has remained at this level since 2017 rather than rising at the same pace as inflation.

Money saved or invested outside of an ISA could be liable for tax. As a result, raising the allowance may provide some people with a lower tax bill overall.

The latest government figures show 11.8 million adults used their ISA to save or invest in the 2021/22 tax year. So, increasing the ISA allowance could be a savvy option before the public goes to the polls.

We can help ensure your financial plan continues to reflect policies

Keeping track of government policies and understanding what they mean for your financial plan can be difficult. As financial planners, we can help you keep your long-term plan up-to-date and explain when announcements might affect you.

If you have any questions about what the upcoming Budget may mean for you, please get in touch.

Please note:

This article is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

Please do not act based on anything you might read in this article. All contents are based on our understanding of HMRC legislation, which is subject to change.

The London skyline.

This year the FTSE 100 index turns 40. Over the last four decades, it’s become a way to measure the health of the UK stock market. During that time there have been highs that investors no doubt celebrated, and lows that serve as a reminder that there’s some truth in the saying: it’s time in the market, not timing the market.

In 1984, Margaret Thatcher was serving as prime minister and, similar to today, interest rates were increasing in a bid to reduce inflation – the base interest rate exceeded 12.8% in July 1984. The country was also grappling with miners’ strikes and high levels of unemployment. Yet, it was also a time of technological advancement and scientific discoveries.

Against this backdrop, the FTSE 100 index launched.

The FTSE 100 is made up of the biggest 100 companies that are listed on the London Stock Exchange. The market capitalisation of each company is reviewed every quarter, and the index is adjusted accordingly. 

More than 20 companies that were listed when the FTSE 100 launched are still on it today, including NatWest, Unilever, and Shell.

While you might think 100 companies were selected for being a round number, it was chosen because it was the maximum number of stock symbols that could be displayed on a single page of the electronic information terminals at the time. The technology’s improved, but the 100 figure has stuck.

As an investor, you might hold individual stocks in some of the companies included in the FTSE 100. You might also be invested in FTSE 100 firms through a fund, which would pool your money with that of other investors to invest in a range of companies.

The FTSE 100 has experienced volatility in the last 40 years

One of the first substantial falls the FTSE 100 recorded was in 1987 during the “Black Monday crash”.

The global stock market crash was unexpected and severe. Some analysts have suggested it was due to significantly overvalued stocks, rising interest rates, or persistent trade and budget deficits in the US.

On 19 October 1987, the FTSE 100 fell by 10.8% and then a further 12.2% the following day. While it took several years, the index recovered and was reaching new highs in the 1990s.

More recently, the FTSE 100 experienced a fall following the 2008 financial crisis, the Brexit referendum, and the Covid-19 pandemic. There have been many smaller dips and corrections too. 

Yet, historically, the FTSE 100 has recovered from downturns.

The FTSE 100 hit 8,000 points in February 2023

On the first day, the FTSE 100 launched at 1,000 points. Over four decades, the overall trend has been an upward one, despite periods of volatility.

Indeed, on 16 February 2023, the index hit an all-time high when it exceeded 8,000 points even though the UK economy was expected to fall into a recession at the time. According to the Guardian, the boost was partly attributed to energy firms making significant gains in light of the war in Ukraine.

Over 40 years, the annualised rate of returns from the FTSE 100 is just above 8%. That’s far above the average rate of inflation of around 3% over the same period.

So, if investors had been spooked during the 1987 crash and withdrew their money from the stock market, they could have missed out on future gains. The ups and downs of the FTSE 100 highlight why a long-term view is often important when you’re investing.

Short-term volatility is part of investing and is impossible to consistently predict. So, rather than trying to time the market, holding assets over a long time frame makes sense for many investors.

Get in touch to talk about your investments

The FTSE 100 has become a useful tool for investors over the last 40 years and it’s often used to provide a snapshot of the investing market. However, there are other opportunities to weigh up too.

We could help you build an investment portfolio that suits you and aligns with your risk profile. Please get in touch to arrange a meeting.

Please note:

This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

The value of your investments (and any income from them) can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount you invested. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.

A calendar that reads “2024”.

What are your goals for 2024? Whether you want to improve your health, be smarter with your money, or learn a new skill, it can be hard to know where to start.

Recent research discovered the average British adult only sticks to a new habit for seven weeks before giving up. So what can you do to achieve the life of your dreams?

If you want to turn your aspirations into reality, read these seven tricks to turn your new year resolutions into habits.

1. Set specific and realistic goals

The first step to keeping your new year resolutions is to set a specific and realistic goal.

For example, “going to the gym” is too vague. Adding some specificity – such as “going to the gym every morning before work” – gives you a more concrete plan of how you can stick to your resolution.

You also need to ensure your goal is realistic. Creating new habits can be a long and arduous process that takes several weeks before they become natural parts of your routine, so make sure they’re something you’re motivated to do regularly.

If you’ve never stepped foot inside a gym before, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to stick to a goal of spending hours there every day. Setting an unrealistic goal can lead to you avoiding your new habit as you might be subconsciously intimidated by such a large change to your routine.

2. Plan ahead

Once you’ve decided on your specific and realistic end goal, you need to create a plan of how you will reach it. This will give you clear, actionable steps toward your dream, which will help you incorporate new habits into your life.

For example, if your goal is to save more for retirement you need to calculate the total amount you will need when you give up work. You also need to determine how much money you should be adding to your pension or other savings every month, so you can put aside regular amounts rather than facing the difficult task of finding a lump sum in the future.

3. Hold yourself accountable

Now you know how you’re going to turn your resolution into a habit, you need to make sure you’re following your carefully crafted plan.

Starting a new habit is hard. But if you push past the initial discomfort and remind yourself of your long-term goals and the reason you chose to make this change in the first place, you can do amazing things.

Acknowledging when you’ve failed and trying to do better next time is a crucial part of starting a new habit. Although we all make mistakes, it’s important to know when you’re making excuses and continue with your plan.

4. Reward yourself

Rewarding yourself is also a brilliant way to hold yourself accountable. Positively reinforcing your efforts tricks your brain into enjoying the habit and will help you to keep up the positive mindset.

There are plenty of small pleasures you can reward yourself with, such as:

  • Sleeping in
  • A bubble bath
  • A meal at your favourite restaurant
  • An evening to yourself
  • Spending time with loved ones
  • Buying something you’ve had your eye on.

Just make sure your reward isn’t undoing your hard work; eating chocolate to reward yourself for being healthy may hinder your improvement.

5. Measure your progress

There are plenty of ways to measure your progress depending on what your goal is. Whether you keep track of your hard work in a journal or an app, it’s important to document your journey.

Habits take a long time to form. Seeing the progress you’ve made can keep you motivated when you otherwise may not have noticed the positive changes you’re making.

Celebrate every milestone you hit, and if you’re not making the progress you wanted to see, consider why. Perhaps your goal was unrealistic or life is getting in your way. Adjust your plan accordingly, and continue on your journey.

6. Start habit stacking

Habit stacking is a technique created by James Clear in his bestselling self-help book, Atomic Habits. The basic concept is that instead of starting a new habit from scratch, you should stack it on top of your existing routine.

There are hundreds of habits you take for granted every day, such as making your bed or cooking dinner. Instead of trying to start your new habit at an arbitrary time, choose one of these habits as a trigger for you to practice your new skill.

A few examples include:

  • Moving money to a savings account when you pay your bills
  • Changing into gym clothes as soon as you wake up
  • Practising a hobby straight after coming home from work.

Your brain strengthens the existing neuron pathways from the original skill, which means you’re building on foundations you’ve already created rather than trying to make a new pathway. This tricks your brain into sticking to the habit for longer as the change feels smoother and less intimidating.

7. Be kind to yourself

Although you want to be the best version of yourself, there might be some days when you can’t follow through your plans. Taking care of your physical and mental health is always important.

Recognising when you’re in a situation that’s out of your control and allowing yourself some grace will help you to stick to your habits in the long run. If you force yourself to do them while burnt out or stressed, you will start to associate your goals with harm rather than the fun and positivity they should be bringing to your life.

A woman smiling as she reads a letter.

With interest rates at their highest level since the 2008 financial crisis, finding a mortgage deal that’s right for you could save you thousands of pounds over the long term.

Following the 2008 financial crisis, the BoE slashed its base interest rate, and it remained below 1% for more than a decade. During the Covid-19 pandemic, it cut the rate to just 0.1%. This means the cost of borrowing was low and aimed to encourage households and businesses to spend more.

However, once inflation started to rise at the end of 2021, the BoE began to increase the base rate to curb spending. As of December 2023, the BoE base rate is 5.25%. For many mortgage holders, this has led to repayments rising.

The table below shows how the interest rate you pay could affect your monthly repayments and the total cost of borrowing if you took out a £200,000 repayment mortgage with a 25-year term.

Source: MoneySavingExpert

It’s important to note that the interest rate you pay will usually change during the term of your mortgage. Typically, the rate you pay will fall as you build up more equity in your property and present less of a risk to lenders. However, the above example demonstrates the effect interest rates have on both your short- and long-term finances.

So, if you’re mortgage deal is expiring, what could you do to improve your chances of securing a competitive interest rate?

Step 1: Put yourself in a good position to approach lenders

Before you start applying for a new mortgage, reviewing your finances and credit report could be useful.

Lenders will assess your application to weigh up how much risk there is of you defaulting on your repayments. So, taking steps to put yourself in a good position before applying could be valuable.

Reviewing your credit report is often a good place to start, as lenders will use this when assessing your application – is the information in your report correct? Are there any potential red flags that could put lenders off? There might be small steps you could take that may improve how you appear to lenders, such as closing down old accounts.

You might also want to get your home revalued. If the value of your home has increased, the equity you hold could be higher than you expect. When making an offer, a lender will consider your loan-to-value (LTV) ratio, which compares how much you’d borrow against the value of the property.

Usually, the lower the LTV, the more competitive the interest rate you’ll be offered as you’ll be viewed as less of a risk.

Step 2: Search the mortgage market for a deal that’s right for you

There are lots of mortgage lenders to choose from, and some of them don’t have a high street presence. Interest rates offered by different lenders can vary significantly, so taking the time to search the market could help you find a deal that’s right for you.

Yet, searching the mortgage market can be a challenge.

As each lender will set their own criteria, it can be difficult to understand which lenders are most likely to accept your application. A rejected application could lead to delays, potentially cost you money, and may result in a hard credit check on your credit report, which could affect your application when applying to other lenders.

In addition, the mortgage market can change quickly. Indeed, according to Moneyfacts, the average shelf-life of a mortgage deal in November 2023 was just 20 days.

Working with a mortgage broker could be useful. As experts, we can take the time to understand your circumstances and search the market with these in mind to find a deal that suits you.

The interest rate isn’t the only factor you should review when assessing mortgage deals

When you’re weighing up your mortgage options, the interest rate is likely to be a key factor. However, depending on your circumstances, there might be other areas you want to consider too.

For instance, if you plan to move, could you port your mortgage to a new property? Or, if you’d like to reduce your debt quickly, could you make overpayments without facing a fee?

Thinking about what’s important to you and your long-term plans when you’re searching for a mortgage could help you secure a mortgage that’s right for you.

Contact us to discuss your mortgage

As a mortgage broker, we can offer guidance throughout the mortgage process and search the market on your behalf. Please contact us to arrange a meeting.

Please note:

This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on a mortgage or other loans secured on it.

A woman talking on the phone.

While the amount stolen by fraudsters fell slightly in the first six months of 2023 when compared to the same period in 2022, a staggering amount was still lost to scams. The latest figures from UK Finance show £580 million was stolen by criminals.

Advanced security systems used by banks prevented £651 million from being stolen in the first half of 2023. Yet, despite these efforts, thousands of people are still falling victim to scams that could have a devastating effect on their emotional and financial wellbeing.

Indeed, the Great British Retirement Survey 2023 found that 1 in 12 people have lost money due to financial scams in the past three years. Interestingly, the findings suggest younger generations could be more likely to fall for a scam – 15% of respondents aged under 40 said they’d lost money due to fraud.

Fraudsters are using authorised push payments to scam victims

According to the UK Finance report, criminals often focus their attempts on “socially engineering personal information” to commit authorised push payment (APP) fraud in which the victim is encouraged to make the payment themselves.

Usually, APP fraudsters use online platforms, mobile phone networks, or social media to trick victims into transferring their money. Two common scenarios UK Finance highlighted were:

  • Purchase scams where people make a payment for goods they believe are genuine. The amount of money lost is typically lower than other forms of scams – purchase scams represent around 66% of APP fraud but account for 17% of total losses.
  • Investment scams may be encouraged to transfer substantial amounts to secure “high returns”. As a result, they account for nearly a quarter of all APP losses reported – the largest proportion of all APP scam types. In the first half of 2023, £57.2 million was lost to investment scams.

Fraudsters might also claim to be from legitimate organisations, such as HMRC or the police, in an attempt to gain personal information or your trust.

Even if APP fraud is not successful, the scammer may have obtained enough personal details to impersonate their victim. It may allow them to take control of existing accounts or open new lines of credit.

While your bank may compensate you if you fall victim to a scam, this isn’t guaranteed. So, it’s important to take precautions to protect your wealth when you’re making payments.

3 useful steps to take that could help you avoid authorised push payments

1. Be cautious of unsolicited contact

If you’re contacted out of the blue, be cautious. Fraudsters may contact you via phone, email, or social media in an attempt to build a rapport.

Scammers may offer attractive opportunities, such as investments with “guaranteed returns” or a way to access your pension early or without paying tax. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

If an individual or organisation that you don’t know contacts you about investments, pensions, or another financial area, it could be a red flag.

Genuine financial service providers will understand why you’re taking precautions if you request additional information, so don’t be afraid to ask. You can also use the Financial Conduct Authority’s register to check the credentials of regulated individuals or firms, as well as their contact information.

2. Clarify payment details with service providers

Large transactions may attract fraudsters who might intercept communications or send you misinformation.

For example, if you’re buying a property, criminals may pose as your solicitor and inform you that their payment details have changed. It could lead to you sending large sums of money to the wrong account.

While verifying details might seem like a task you can skip, it could prevent you from falling for a scam. A quick phone call could put your mind at ease and mean you’re less at risk.

3. Don’t rush financial decisions  

A common tactic fraudsters use is to put pressure on you to make a quick decision. If you’re feeling rushed, you’re less likely to spot red flags or review financial opportunities objectively.

So, if you’re weighing up an investment opportunity and your contact tells you it is a time-limited offer or sends a courier to your home with paperwork to sign immediately, take a step back.

Legitimate financial professionals will understand the importance of reviewing your options and deciding if an opportunity is right for you.

Contact us if you’re concerned about scams

If you’ve been targeted by a scam, you can contact Action Fraud to report it. You may also want to get in touch with your bank or other financial provider, as they may be able to halt or trace a transaction.

You can contact us if you’re considering an opportunity and aren’t sure if it’s a scam or right for you. Sometimes a different perspective may highlight potential red flags you might overlook initially.

Please note:

This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

A grandfather reading a book with his grandson.

Traditionally, people passed on wealth to their loved ones once they passed away through a will. However, you might be considering gifting assets during your lifetime to create a living legacy. Read on to discover the pros and cons you may want to consider before deciding which option is right for you.

The benefits of passing on assets during your lifetime

A living legacy may allow you to help your loved ones when they need it most

One of the key drawbacks of a traditional inheritance is that they’re often received later in life when loved ones may be more financially secure. In contrast, a living legacy could provide you with a way to pass on assets at a time when they’ll benefit more.

Soaring house prices mean getting on the property ladder has become a challenge for many families. As a result, parents and grandparents are increasingly passing on wealth to act as a deposit.

According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, around half of first-time buyers in their 20s receive financial help to buy their home. On average, they receive a gift of £25,000.

The research found that not only does this wealth transfer support home ownership goals but long-term wealth accumulation too. As those receiving financial help typically put down a larger deposit, the interest they pay on their mortgage could be thousands of pounds lower.

Helping loved ones step onto the property ladder isn’t the only reason you might want to gift assets now. Perhaps you want to fund university or private school, or pay off debt so their day-to-day finances improve.

Passing on assets during your lifetime could give you greater control over how they’re used

If you have a clear idea about how you’d like your beneficiaries to use the assets you’re passing on to them, doing so during your lifetime could provide you with greater control. For instance, if you want to ensure your grandchild goes to a private school, you could pay the fees directly.

It may be worth speaking to your family about their goals and the obstacles they face in reaching them. This could help you provide support in a way that suits both them and you.

Gifting might offer a way to reduce a potential Inheritance Tax bill

If the value of your estate exceeds Inheritance Tax (IHT) thresholds when you pass away, it could result in a large bill and less money going to your beneficiaries.

In 2023/24, the nil-rate band is £325,000 – if the value of your estate is below this threshold, no IHT is due. In addition, if you’re passing on some properties, including your main home, to direct descendants, you may be able to use the residence nil-rate band, which is £175,000 in 2023/24.

You can pass on unused allowances to your spouse or civil partner. So, as a couple, you could pass on up to £1 million before IHT is due.

If your estate could be liable for IHT, there may be steps you could take to reduce a potential bill, including passing on assets during your lifetime. However, not all assets are considered immediately outside of your estate for IHT purposes, and the rules can be complex. If you’re thinking about creating a living legacy to mitigate an IHT bill, we can help.

The drawbacks of a living legacy

Passing on wealth now could affect your long-term financial security

One of the key challenges of passing on wealth during your lifetime is understanding the long-term effect it could have on your financial security – would taking a lump sum out of your estate now potentially mean you need to make compromises later in life?

Making gifts part of your financial plan can help you understand the short- and long-term impact. It can give you confidence when you’re passing on assets that your finances are secure too.

A living legacy could affect the assets you leave behind as an inheritance

While a living legacy can be useful, you might still want to leave an inheritance behind for loved ones. Gifting could mean the amount they’ll receive after you’ve passed away is lower. So, if leaving assets in a will is important to you, assessing how a living legacy will affect your estate during your lifetime could be useful.

It might also be beneficial to have a conversation with your loved ones – do they understand how gifts they receive now could affect their inheritance? It may affect the financial decisions they make.

Gifting assets during your lifetime may make your estate plan more complex

Estate planning can be complex, and gifting during your lifetime could add to this.

You might gift one child a deposit to get on the property ladder, but your other child already owns their home – will you still provide them with a lump sum now or would they receive more through your will?

An estate plan that’s tailored to you could help you manage different goals and set out the best way to provide support for each of your beneficiaries. It can also help you take the steps necessary to ensure your wishes are followed, such as writing a will. 

Arrange a meeting with us to talk about your living legacy

If you’d like to pass on wealth during your lifetime, it’s important you consider how it’ll affect your long-term finances and how to do it tax-efficiently. Making a living legacy part of your long-term financial plan could provide you with peace of mind while you support loved ones.

We could also help you assess other options, such as leaving an inheritance in a will or placing assets in a trust, to create an estate plan that suits you.

Please contact us to arrange a meeting.

Please note:

This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate estate planning, tax planning, trusts, or legal services.